We're coming up on the biggest weekend for StarCraft II eSports in 2013 so far, with both the Korean and American WCS Season 1 finals concluding the first round of Blizzard's new, worldwide tournament format. The Korean finals between INnoVation and Soulkey will have already started by the time you read this, but you should be able to check out the WCS archives shortly after the broadcast. The American finals, beginning with the Round of 8, will run throughout the weekend.
Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm
StarCraft II pro Ilyes "Stephano" Satouri announced on a livestream today that he intends to retire from professional gaming this August, returning to school with his over $200,000 in winnings. The French Zerg player is arguably the most successful non-Korean in the history of the game (indisputably, based on winnings alone). His most recent major victory was at the 2012 Blizzard WCS European finals, since which he has been showing less impressive performance.
Esports team Evil Geniuses have "released" Starcraft 2 pro Greg "IdrA" Fields from their roster, after he insulted the SC2 community in a forum post earlier in the week. The often contentious Zerg player posted in the Team Liquid forum's "The IdrA Fanclub" thread Wednesday morning, calling fans "a bunch of fucks" after one poster jokingly suggested he was "crying inside" because of "enforced facade."
The first major event of Dreamhack's 2013 season is up and running from Stockholm, Sweden. 96 top StarCraft II players have gathered to compete for $27,000 in prizes and up to 750 WCS points. Two group stages have already concluded, but there are plenty more matches to catch leading up to and including the overall finals on the 27th.
A decade and a half ago, I strolled into a Kmart with a plastic pencil case full of saved-up change to buy a game called StarCraft. At the time, no one could have expected it to become the dominant competitive RTS for 15 years. Its sequel, which just received a first expansion earlier this year, is growing in popularity with over $1.6 million in prizes available for competitive play for the 2013 season.
Last week, we got a look at the format for the 2013 StarCraft II World Championship Series in the North America region. Today, Blizzard released a detailed explanation of the global prize pools and point system for the new face of top-level competition. If you like eSports, looking at large sums of money, and purple-tinted infographics, this might be the most personally relevant thing you read today.
With the announcement of the new, unified World Championship Series for StarCraft II, the structure of competitive play is going through a lot of changes. Here in North America, Blizzard is partnering up with Major League Gaming to crown a continental champion using a format similar to South Korea's GSL. It can be a little confusing at first glance, so we've broken it down into a simple, straightforward explanation.
We're fast approaching the launch of Blizzard's unified Starcraft 2 eSports league, the 2013 World Championship Series. The WCS Korea is already underway, and within the next few weeks, both WCS Europe and WCS America will be providing free streamed Heart of the Swarm matches for viewers worldwide. Today they've announced the kick-off dates for each part of the upcoming season, and revealed the adjusted selection process being used to pick the inaugural competitors.
Blizzard have announced an ambitious new format for Starcraft II's World Championship Series eSports event. This year, players will compete in unified leagues - divided into three regions - across three seasons. The aim is to cut down on the game's traditionally divided leagues and tournaments, providing fans with a focal championship with which to settle arguments over which race is massively OP. And to enjoy the game, I guess.
One of Blizzard's staples are its lavishly detailed game cinematics, but putting pretty character assets in front of you isn't the studio's only goal when it sets out to create a cutscene. In a talk at GDC last week, StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm Lead Writer Brian Kindregan exposed Blizzard's approach to creating Pixar-quality animation that hooks players into a game's story on an emotional level.
It's the perfect storm: April Fools' Day and a Bank Holiday Monday. It's all but guaranteed that the only news to come out of developers or publishers today will be wrapped in japes and hijinks. Ah well, if you can't beat 'em, report 'em. That's what my nan used to say. She was a notorious snitch.
Read on for an ambitious Minecraft update, a surprising Starcraft balance patch, and the return of the most terrifying game of recent years. Everything you're about to read is a lie. Unless it isn't, and we're being meta-April fooled into thinking it is. Oh god, when will it end?
StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm is still fresh off of the oozing, globular presses, and its community is still in a state of contention over the new units and the metagame still taking shape around them. A lot of the current concern is surrounding the new booster ability for Terran Medivacs, which allowed some relatively unknown players to defeat legendary Zerg players like Leenock in decisive fashion. Many have taken up the cry of "Nerf! Nerf! Nerf!" Blizzard, however, thinks the problem lies in the newness of the expansion more than the Medivac or another unit being overpowered.
We caught up with Level 85 Elite Tauren Chieftain frontman (oh, and he's also Senior Art Director at Blizzard) at the Heart of the Swarm launch last week to discuss the visual design of the expansion. What inspired the new campaign's aesthetic? How do you create Zerg characters that are both "zergy" and relatable to players? Between the two of us, is there enough hair in this room to knit a sweater? Listen in and find out!
Not only did I get to chat with the voice of Jim Raynor earlier this week at the Heart of the Swarm launch event in Irvine, CA, I also stopped by Blizzard HQ to interview Chris Metzen, Blizzard's VP of Story and Franchise Development, about the story of Heart of the Swarm... and beyond. Among the topics discussed are games as storytelling tools, where Kerrigan fits into Blizzard's roster of iconic characters, and what Thrall would order at Outback Steakhouse.
This week in eSports: MLG Winter is finally here! Heart of the Swarm has launched, and now is as good a time as ever to start eSportsing. Plus, competitive gaming has earned itself a spot at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics conference. Have a look at all of this and more inside. gl hf!
Following IGN's sale to new publisher Ziff Davis, the IGN Pro League closed its curtains last week. For attendees, players, and teams, this was mighty inconvenient timing: IPL's March 28 event was cancelled, and along with it their plans for travel and competition. IGN is still looking for a buyer, and GameSpot says a few anonymous sources had been pointing to Blizzard as a prospect, of all companies—which Blizzard is promptly denying in the same report.
Twitch.TV, much like YouTube, now occupies a space in my internet life where I can sort of remember it not existing, but can't really conceive of it not being around. That it was launched less than two years seems like scary time-distorting magic. And given the record breaking growth that Twitch has now announced, it seems I'm not alone in obsessive digestion of gaming streams, competitions and oddities. In fact, last month, 600,000 broadcasters attracted over 28 million unique viewers.
We sent intrepid, Viking-like Contributing Editor T.J. Hafer down to Irvine, California yesterday to take in the StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm launch event at the Spectrum Mall. He was met by giddy pre-orderers, a hat, a Kerrigan, and the Robert Clotworthy, the voice of Terran good guy Jim Raynor.
Humanity's unspeakable doom never looked so cute. StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm burst out of its cocoon yesterday, and its intro cinematic continues a Blizzard tradition of setting the scene with gorgeous animations. CarbotAnimations' skillful hand-drawn replication of the intro's Zerg-on-Terran assault isn't as shiny, but if the derp-faced aliens and pudgy marines don't earn at least one giggle, then the Zergling vanquishing a soldier with a barrage of licks ought to. Now I'll feel bad whenever I blow up a Zerg base—all they wanted was cuddles.
From your cold, distant position hovering above a Starcraft 2 map, it's easy to forget that the armies you control are full of tiny representations of people. That SCV you sacrificed for crucial scouting information? Only two months off his final mortgage payments. That Colossus you mis-microed? Proud father to a litter of baby colossi, whose small stature admittedly makes their name redundant. And those Zerglings you rushed... Admittedly, not a lot going on there. Hive mind and all that.
Still, there's potential tragedy with every click. Especially when centred around the characters of Heart of the Swarm's plot. That's the subject of the prequel webcomic, Hope and Vengeance, which Blizzard have uploaded to their site for the launch of the latest RTS expansion.